TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Officials in Idaho are trying to attract more gun makers, touting state laws aimed at promoting gun ownership and manufacturing.
''It certainly would be an industry that would thrive in Idaho because of the interest we have in hunting and the way the state embraces firearms,'' said Jan Roeser, a labor economist with the Idaho Department of Labor. ''I think Idaho is on its way to developing an industry base.''
About 200 small arms manufacturers in the nation rack up roughly $2 billion a year in sales.
Idaho economic development officials plan to travel in February to Las Vegas for the Shot Show, a trade show that attracts gun makers from across the U.S.
Other states — Montana, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming — are also trying to attract gun manufacturers.
''Much of what it will come down to is which state will be the most aggressive in appealing to the industry,'' said Richard Schelowitz, an analyst who monitors the firearms industry. ''And if the industry continues to grow in the civilian and military markets, which we believe it will judging by current events, the state that wins will certainly reap the economic benefits.''
Besides favorable manufacturing and tax regulations, gun makers are also looking for areas where gun ownership is viewed more favorably, experts say. Idaho fits that bill.
In the 1990s, Idaho's Constitution was amended to protect gun owners and manufacturers from licensing and registration. At the same time, many other states were considering bills to tighten gun control laws. Idaho also exempted firearm sales from a special tax.
Some states are becoming less friendly to gun makers. Twelve states in the East and Midwest have passed or are considering legislation that would restrict the manufacture and sale of firearms.
Illinois is one of them, which is also the home of Armalite, DS Arms and the Springfield Armory.
One supplier for Armalite recently visited southern Idaho to scope out possible manufacturing sites.
''Right now, I don't think you are seeing a mass exodus of large manufacturers from states that are imposing tighter regulations, but some of the smaller and more mobile ones are leaving,'' Schelowitz told The Times-News. ''If the trend continues you should expect to see even the large ones make the move to states that are perceived as gun friendly.''
The largest firearm-related business in the state is in Lewiston. ATK, an advanced weapon and space systems company, makes ammunition for law enforcement agencies and civilians.
''We're the largest producer of rimfire ammunition in the nation,'' said Marty Zacha, general manager of the Lewiston plant. ''Most people probably aren't aware of it, but if you have ever fired a .22 caliber rifle or pistol, then you have probably fired a round that was made in Idaho.''